Laughing and Groaning


I’m reading through the ESV this year, and as I read the story of the birth of Isaac again I was struck with a particular literary thread woven through the narrative. In Gen 18.12, “Sarah laughed to herself” at the announcement of Isaac’s birth the following year. In Gen 21.6, she named her son Isaac, which means, “laughter.”  “And Sarah said, ‘God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.’” Three verses later we read, “But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing.” Sarah’s prediction was realized, and Hagar’s mocking laughter proved so offensive to her that she demanded that Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael away. And we all know how that’s going.

I don’t find any record of Jesus laughing, though I’m sure He did. The only reference I can remember of God laughing is in Psalm 2, and it is not related to humour. Psa 2.4 tells us that “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.” Whenever I read these words, the powerful bass recitative from MESSIAH comes to mind, and it somehow seems to compound in my mind the derisive nature of God’s laughter at those who would think they could thwart His eternal plan.

Groaning? We all do that sometimes. I know I’ve done my share in this last year. Romans 8 tell us that creation groans under the weight of sin, that we ourselves groan with the anticipation of the redemption of our bodies, and that the Holy Spirit groans on our behalf when we cannot articulate what is on our hearts. I’d venture to say there is a good deal more groaning going on in the world these days than laughing. But what a great thing it is to know that God the Spirit is so intimately involved with us—He lives in us, after all—that He actively and accurately does our groaning for us. We whine. He groans.

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2 thoughts on “Laughing and Groaning”

  1. Just skimmed an article in New Yorker on the therapeutical benefits of laughing. Didn’t notice any benefits at all with respect to groaning, although I must say the article was boring enough to make me do just that.

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